Turn them off! To the media, turn the President press conferences off!
If I wrote this in a piece of fiction even a year ago, you rightfully so would have thought this was unbelievable. Most editors would have said no, remove that. If anything, it would have been in a piece of dystopian fiction. Americans know you can trust the president even if you disagree with him politically. However, watching President Donald Trump's daily briefing is akin to watching a descent into madness.
The president can not his political rallies in the age of Corona. Those rallies were already bordering on the ramblings of a man who wants to be a dictator. They had elements common to any well known authoritarian. Attacks on the media and Democrats were common fodder, which his base loved. These same exact attacks have come to the White House in the midst of a global crisis, and are exactly where we are during those pressers. They are campaign rallies.
These are long, at times way too long. Compared to governors such as Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom, they lack substance. We don’t learn anything new, and what we get out of them is a lot of spite, hate, half baked ideas, and conspiracies. We even get things like “I can order the states to do things, such as open their economy.” This is not about science, but about money and the economy. He knows that he depends on a healthy economy to be reelected. He also understands that this crisis has destroyed any semblance of the only argument he still had.
No, he did not quite phrase it that way, but the implications that he could be strong during his multi-hour Friday briefing. We have never tested the true limits of the Stafford Act, but that is what I believe he is talking about. Whether he has the actual authority to do it is a good question, and I suspect we will end in the courts. This will be a contest between states Rights to determine internal policy, including health, and the reach of the Federal Government. It will also be a test for courts, who in many cases are the least qualified to asses the science behind health policies.
He uses these pressers to continue his attacks on state governments. Especially those led by governors who do not kiss the presidential ring. Why? He is under the impression that he can order governments to do things. This is where his statement that he will open the country is coming from. Mind you, he did not close the country and has yet to give that guidance. Why? Some red rural States are the ones still refusing to order their citizens to shelter in place, partly on the misguided thought that they will not have the same challenges as oh New York. Why? These are rural states, and they are very conservative. They are all about freedom and libertarian ideology.
Then there is the little nugget of truth. Trump is facing the most critical decision of his presidency. He can surrender to economic interests, who are losing money hand over fist, and order the opening of the nation. Or he can listen to health experts who have tried over and over again to explain why you need to keep things in mass quarantine. Some companies will not survive this. And we may be heading to a great depression. However, these are the same companies and leaders of industry that will resist things like Universal Basic Income, which will keep people afloat and able to spend once the economy is opened. This is hardly about socialism, and a few countries are adopting forms of this. They will recover faster than the United States. If this goes long enough without that kind of support, we will face riots because hungry people are not going to stay at home.
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York called the president over his misguided views because he will not order his state economy to open until its safe. He also alluded to the early opening in other national economies and how they had a spike of cases. Specifically, he mentioned South Korea and Italy. Cuomo is following the science, Trump is folioing his gut. We need a working government that follows science, not their gut. Moreover, we know the Feds were warned, The emails are starting to trickle out and they should make all of us very angry.
How do we know the president does not understand any of this? Well, this statement from his presser was a textbook example of how much he does not get any of it.
“No, one of the biggest problems the world has is the germ has gotten so brilliant that the antibiotic can’t keep up with it, they’re constantly trying to come up with — a new. People go to a hospital and they catch — they go for a heart operation, that’s no problem, and they end up dying from problems. You know the problems I’m talking about.”
COVID-19 is a virus. It is a specific type of coronavirus, in the SARS family. No virus is treated with antibiotics, and the truth is told, we have very view antivirals, which have limited effect against Influenza. This is another type of virus, in another family of viruses. This is extremely basic biology, and it gives very little confidence when the president makes statements like this. This lack of true leadership in the White House is leading to things like Texas Governor Greg Abbott announcing that he intends to open his state. According to Newsweek:
Abbott said Texas, which would be the world’s 11th largest economy it were an independent country, could find a balance between personal safety and economic security.
“We will focus on protecting lives while restoring livelihoods,” Abbott said on Friday at a news conference.
“We can and we must do this. We can do both, expand and restore the livelihoods that Texans want to have by helping them return to work. One thing about Texans, they enjoy working and they want to get back into the workforce. We have to come up with strategies on how we can do this safely.”
If Abbott takes off the pedal from the accelerator too soon, infections in his state will explode. We know this from other countries. While this is a new virus, we already have some experience. However, with the poor, to no leadership from the White House, this should surprise no one.
This is one of the reasons why these pressers, which are more properly campaign rallies and airing of grievances, should no longer be carried in real time. Editors and producers can edit whatever is useful out of them, to inform the people. It is insane that we are at the point when watching the president can be hazardous to your health, but we are at that point. Instead, we should have the conferences of governors where things are working. Chiefly the States of Washington and California could provide some real-time guidance to the rest of the nation.
There is more: Testing. We lack the testing capacity since the president refuses to invoke the Defense Production Act. We need substantially more testing to understand where we are with the virus and where the hot spots are. This is why he is becoming so defensive on this matter. However, not enough tests mean no positive numbers, which means we are doing better in his fevered mind. If you read that and went what the hell? That is the logic from the president. Having an incomplete picture means he is doing a great job, which he keeps telling us during those crazy pressers.
The problem is that not having a more complete picture will make opening the country a game of chance. How many active cases, that are not symptomatic, are we going to miss? How many are going to visit grandparents because the economy is now working? This is a problem, and people will die.
This is another reason not to show these in real-time. They are giving the wrong signals to supporters who are predisposed to doubt any science or the authorities. We also need a working government, but we are getting the results of decades of a party that hates a functional government and experts.